In view of what happened last night, I emerge from the hostel all covered up – a ‘buff’ (Thanks Sara – your presi!) scarf to cover my hair, leggings on under long skirt. I go looking for the hostel owner – and find him very quickly in a rather dowdy and smoke filled café just down the road, which is lucky. He seems pleased to see me – maybe because I survived the night intact. He buys the coffee, while I sit and knit and wait until he’s ready to get up and let Rowenna out of captivity. The room is full of men talking about me in Albanian, with a TV blaring out pop music sung by scantily clad women. I’m feeling self conscious, all wrapped up, but I have to remember that they are more used to seeing women dressed like this than not. It’s a relief to finally get going again.
When I get to Giloboçice again, I check Komoot which seems to say there is a border crossing into Albania just 4-5km up the road from Krushevë (which I’ve just come through). So back I go (like a yo yo, up and down this valley!). I discuss this track to the border with some guys in a café who all take it upon themselves to help me out – including a boss and his junior who work at the local hydroelectric power station. It is decided that a guy who used to work in the customs (called Nusret) will be the best bet to take me up there and try and get me across – I feel like I’m being smuggled – but the border closes at 6pm so we need to get going. Another Italian expat home to meet up with his family, called Ensar – fetches his English speaking twin daughters and they promise to help me out if I can’t cross the border. I really can’t imagine this kind of scenario happening in England!
Poor Rowenna is bundled unceremoniously in Nusret’s tiny rusty Ford and we set off up the old Army road, which is indeed terrible with deep ruts which bump and jar the exhaust pipe and surely do lasting damage. When I get there, I find I cannot cross as this border crossing is for locals only. BUT I can have two hours in Albania, in Shishtavec if I want. Because I don’t know what the conversation is about, I find we do indeed go to Shishtavec for a couple of beers and where Nusret seems to know half the locals. We then turn about and go back to Krusheve. (Completely bizarre!). There, Nusret takes me home to visit his family, where his sister vacates her bed for me (despite yet more protestations that I’m very happy to kip on the sofa or the floor even). I also meet Nusret’s brother’s son, home from Swansea (of all places). He even speaks English with a Welsh accent – but is married to a local girl and they come back to visit the family every summer (this is a recurring story I find). I get shown 3 pairs of traditional Albanian socks and have them thrust upon me – as I will obviously treasure them. I try to say NO, I’m on a bicycle and I already have ONE other pair of handspun socks – but no, they get wrapped in a plastic bag and put in my bag.